Airbus dedicates new Alabama plant

Glenn Farley reports

MOBILE, Ala. - Airbus opened its first U.S. manufacturing plant on Monday. It is the first time since the late 1990s that there has been two companies making airliners in the U.S. since Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas.

The former McDonnell Douglas plants in Long Beach, California no longer produce planes.

State, federal and local leaders were on hand Monday as the company dedicated its new airplane factory in Mobile.

The $600 million complex is expected to employ as many as 1,000 people once production begins later this year. The first aircraft delivery is planned for late next year next year. That plane will go to jetBlue. The next one will go to American Airlines.

The factory is designed produce the common single aisle airliners Airbus also builds in three other factories around the world, the A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. But Airbus executives say the order's slated to be built in Mobile are heavily favoring the larger A321.

The plant could mean more competition for Boeing, but it can also mean more business for dozens of companies that do business with Airbus here in Washington.

Airbus V.P. for Procurement David Williams says Washington as a state is now ranked number two behind only California, and ranks fourth in terms of dollars spent.

Airbus originally came to Mobile in a play to win the competition over Boeing to build a new tanker for the U.S. Air Force. Airbus promising to assemble the tankers based on the much larger A330 wide bodied jet in Mobile. Airbus won the contract, but ultimately lost after Boeing contested the deal.

But Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said the European based Airbus would keep its commitment to build airliners in Mobile. That is now the A320 line, which the head of Airbus' North American wing Allan McCartor says will better position the company to win future defense business in the future.

The current Mobile assembly line is now planned to build four jets per month but could eventually go eight jets per month or nearly 100 planes per year. Most destined for U.S. based carriers, a North American market that Airbus expects will expand 40 percent over the next 20 years.


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